Submit Express Newsletter #22
May 1, 2000
2- Cloaking Software for Better Rankings
3- Search Engine News
4- Top 10 Search Engines
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In this issue, we asked Carman Taylor, developer of the Inexpensive
Cloaking Script (ICS), to write a guest article for us about Cloaking
Software. In case you don't know, cloaking software is used to improve
search engine placement, while at the same time it is a way to hide your
optimized pages from the visitors.
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2- Cloaking Software
CLOAKING FOR BETTER RANKINGS - A good thing or a bad thing?
You may have heard about cloaking software on various places throughout
the Internet and wondered what it is, or how it works. Well you're in
luck, because we are going to talk about just that. Below you will find
out how and why cloaking works, as well as some myths surrounding
cloaking and search engine optimization in general. I will also tell you
where to find cloaking scripts and some of the typical requirements for
installing cloaking scripts on your site.
I would be remiss if I did not say right off the top that the decision
to use cloaking is a personal one. Whenever you read about cloaking on
message boards throughout the net, it is almost impossible for some poor
soul's question regarding some aspect of cloaking to turn into a debate
on the ethics of cloaking. Some people believe that the mere use of
cloaking is a violation of ethics, while others insist that if it is
used to spam the search engines only then does it become an issue. Still
others use scare tactics, usually claiming that search engines can
detect cloaking and will ban your site on the spot.
Who's right? Well like many things in life, the truth lies somewhere in
between for the latter, and I am afraid the former will never be
resolved. Ethics is a personal matter and far beyond the scope of this
article. Bottom line, arm yourself with factual information and use it
to make an informed decision for yourself.
In order to understand cloaking, let's first cover some basic
information about search engines, which you may or may not already know.
Search engines become "aware" of pages to index either by following a
link on a page or by having that page's URL submitted to them by you, or
someone else. Submitted or crawled page URL addresses are then queued
for a spider to visit and retrieve for indexing. Every engine does this
a little differently. Some send out a spider immediately after you
submit a page to them (such as Alta Vista and Lycos) - these are usually
referred to as instant spiders - while others queue the request and a
spider can arrive anywhere from days and weeks later, to never.
The spidered page is then run through an algorithm at the search engine,
which determines word weight and relevancy, and many now also look at
link popularity. The algorithms are very complex and are never made
public for obvious reasons. The page will then be indexed in the search
engine's database and will be returned for keyword(s) searched, for
which it was deemed to be relevant. The greater the relevancy of a page
for a particular search term, the higher in rank it is displayed in the
results shown the searcher.
Every search engine uses a different algorithm to rank pages. As a
result, it can be difficult to have a page rank well on many engines.
What is considered as very relevant by Alta Vista may be considered far
less relevant by Excite and rank considerably lower for the same search
The way to attack this problem is to produce highly targeted "doorway
pages", sometimes called "bridge pages", to your site. These are built
to target specific keywords and keyword phrases for specific engine
algorithms. These pages have a much better chance of being ranked well
because they are very focused on the keyword(s) and the algorithm.
Usually these pages have a link pointing to your main site, so that when
they are found in search results the visitor sees the doorway and either
clicks through to your main site or moves on.
This approach works fairly well except that the visitor's first
encounter with your site is a doorway page; secondly, your rankings
become vulnerable to outright theft or reverse engineering.
This bears a little explaining. When you achieve top positions in search
engine rankings, your pages will be scrutinized by competitors for those
keywords. The lowest of the low amongst webmasters will simply copy your
code (steal it!), make some modifications to it and submit it as their
own. Since the algorithm liked your page it will like this one too, and
it may even rank higher than yours if the modifications that were made
to it make it even more relevant than your page.
Many more will not be so blatant about stealing your code, they will use
a process called reverse engineering. There are some products on the
market that can do this. These products automatically retrieve top
positioned pages and break down the elements that made those pages rank
well. The webmaster then produces pages which have the same
characteristics for keyword placement, weight, and overall word count,
as your well ranking page. While most loathe the webmaster who outright
steals your page, this method is widely accepted as a means to achieving
high ranking on search engines.
Either way, the end result is that as pages are submitted ranking higher
than yours, a slide in ranking takes place for your page. If you
optimize it some more and resubmit, the cycle simply repeats again and
When a search engine spiders a page from your site, it simply makes a
request for the page to the server. This is not unlike a regular
visitor to your site, who makes a request to the server with a browser
for a page. On a site without cloaking, the request for a page will
prompt the server to offer up the same page whether it is a spider
requesting it, or a regular visitor.
WHAT DOES CLOAKING DO THAT IS DIFFERENT?
Cloaking is a CGI program that is installed on your server that detects
a visitor to your web site. Then, by comparing the IP address of the
visitor to a database of "known" search engine spiders, it determines if
that visitor is a search engine spider or a regular visitor.
Once the cloaking program determines who the visitor is, it retrieves
the appropriate content for the page being requested, and it displays
this content to satisfy the request. Since all the processing takes
place on the server side, that is, before the request is ever handed to
the browser or spider, it is undetectable. It is important to understand
refresh redirects. Cloaking is not redirection. No redirect ever takes
place, which a search engine spider can detect.
INSTALLING A CLOAKING SCRIPT
If you have installed other CGI scripts on your site, such as a bulletin
board, or a guestbook, then you should not have too much trouble
installing a cloaking script. Most of the scripts available would
require that you create directories on your web hosting space and upload
files and programs to these directories according to the instructions
provided with the script. You will typically require an account that
allows you to run CGI programs, Server Side Includes (SSI), and Perl,
usually on a Unix host but some of the scripts are also available for NT
Look for a script that uses IP addresses to detect search engines, since
it is the most secure method of protecting your pages from theft. This
is because an IP address is extremely difficult to feign, making it very
difficult for someone to misrepresent themselves to you as a search
engine and view your cloaked pages.
Some of the scripts come with an interface that makes configuration and
administration of your cloaking script easier. If you are uncomfortable
editing code to specify options and add IP addresses, then look for one
that has a graphical interface which will make these tasks considerably
OK, I'VE DECIDED TO CLOAK. WHAT SHOULD I WATCH OUT FOR?
Do NOT cloak pages that are irrelevant to the content you will be
showing regular visitors. This is considered spam by the search engines
and will get your pages dropped or your domain banned altogether.
Do NOT cloak stolen pages or other code. This is a sure fire way to get
in trouble with search engines.
Do NOT over do it.
Do use cloaking to gain freedom in designing pages for human visitors,
while feeding an equivalent search engine friendly page to the spiders
and to protect your optimized code, and you will be fine. Remember that
while you can feed strictly doorway pages to spiders, you can also gain
a considerable ranking boost by simply using the exact same content
to make a page nice for your prospective clients. There is a trend on
some engines to move away from the "typical" doorway page design. So the
technique of using a "stripped down" version of a page for the engines,
perhaps with an added targeted keyword phrase, will likely gain favor.
WHERE CAN I FIND CLOAKING SCRIPTS?
There are a number of cloaking scripts available. They range in price
from free to several thousand dollars. Pay close attention to the
features offered so that you do not pay for features you don't need. For
example, some scripts submit pages and build doorway pages for you as
well. If you don't want or need this functionality, then why pay for it?
Likewise, if you are comfortable with code and know some programming,
then a free script that you can modify or support yourself may do just
You will find a number of cloaking scripts listed at the Open Directory
Project if you search for "cloaking" at www.dmoz.org.
For additional information and a comparison chart of the most popular
scripts available visit:
Article by: Carman "Air" Taylor
Carman is the developer of the Inexpensive Cloaking Script (ICS) and has
been working in the IT field for over twenty years as a programmer and
network designer. For commercial and free scripts developed by ICS visit
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3- Search Engine News
Northern Light announced a partnership with Vicinity to offer
geographically oriented web search capability. Through the new Vicinity
GeoSearch application, Northern Light users can now include location
information in a search request and receive a result listing Web pages
that are sorted by their geographic relevance to the user. See details
Northern Light also announced a major television ad campaign to boost
its traffic and keep up with competitors.
GoTo.com announced that it has created a B2B directory dedicated to the
needs of small and mid-sized businesses located at business.goto.com.
Inktomi announced new search architecture and increase of its search
index size to 500 million documents. Inktomi's new search technology,
called GEN3, will find the most relevant listings from its human edited
directory as well as using its Concept Induction technology, which uses
advanced supercomputing techniques to model human conceptual
classification of content, and projects this intelligence across
millions of documents. Concept Induction also leverages the link
structure of the Web to discover conceptual linkages among documents and
select the highest quality and most relevant content.
Inktomi search database is used by several top search engines and sites
such as America Online, Freeserve.net, Goto.com, iWon.com, LookSmart,
HotBot, MSN, NTT and Yahoo!
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4- Top 10 Search Sites
According to Media Metrix, here are the top 10 search sites for March
2000 (Unique visitors in thousands):
1- Yahoo.com 47,550
2- Lycos.com 28,011
3- Go.com 21,185
4- Excite 17,471
5- AltaVista Search Services 11,953
6- Snap.com Search & Services 10,961
7- AskJeeves.com 8,793
8- Looksmart.com 8,763
9- Goto.com 7,296
10- Iwon.com 6,917
You can see more stats at:
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